CUMBERLAND, Maine — You may see someone familiar when you tune into “Survivor” this season.
Michael Snow, who moved to Cumberland in the early 1970s with his family and graduated from Greely High School in 1986 and later graduated from the University of Maine in Orono, is among the 20 “castaways” in the 26th season – dubbed “Caramoan: Fans Vs. Favorites” – of the hit CBS show.
Snow, 44, co-founded the Whole World Theatre in Atlanta, Ga., and has lived in New York City since 2001. He is a freelance producer of corporate meetings and training, and works for several production companies. He said he started watching “Survivor about four or five years ago.
“I was immediately hooked and saw myself on a beach playing this game,” he said in an email. “Once I figured out that normal folks play, I was convinced I could do it. Ironically, before I started watching, I helped two friends make their audition tapes.”
Snow — whose parents Sue and Lew, brother Tom, sisters Susan and Anne, and “a whole pack of awesome nieces and nephews” live in the Cumberland-North Yarmouth area — said he made and submitted a few videos before creating one that convinced the show’s casting people to call him.
“I was a bit nervous meeting some of the big-wigs … knowing how close I was to actually playing,” he said. When he was selected, he added, he “couldn’t believe I was being given the chance to play.”
The winner of the 39-day game claims the title of “Sole Survivor” and a $1 million prize.
Yoga, swimming and running helped Snow prepare for the adventure. He also practiced with flint and steel for starting fires, and tried to do brain teasers and puzzles, but focused specifically on planning his game strategy.
This season, which started Feb. 13 and airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, pits new contestants against returning players.
“Playing against past contestants was both exciting and a pisser at the same time,” Snow said. “I knew we would have a great season with some great game play, but the returning players also had a distinct advantage over us newbies. They’ve played, competed, starved and survived — knew what was ahead of them — and we were as green as can be. I hope we make the fans proud.”
Being on the show he’d watched was “incredibly exciting, but not strange,” Snow said. “I was ready to play and knew that if I was freaked out, I would not be playing and get myself in trouble. I was pretty focused.”
Asked on Monday what it’s like to watch his son on TV, and whether he seems different, Lew Snow said, “not really; it’s the same old Mike. He’s had some bit parts in movies and things like that, so I’ve actually seen him on TV before.”
Snow’s previous screen time includes roles in “Sweet Home Alabama” and “What Men Talk About (While Women Make Them Wait),” according to the Internet Movie Database.
Lew Snow added that being on “Survivor” is something that Michael has always wanted to do, “and he’s worked hard to be on the program, so it’s kind of exciting to see him have a goal,” and work toward achieving it.
This season takes place in Caramoan, dubbed a “secret paradise” of the Philippines at caramoanislands.com. The cast landed there last May and returned home in late June.
“Caramoan may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been,” Snow said. “The water is crystal blue and warm. The islands are amazing. The people are gorgeous, I’ve never seen such amazing smiles.”
On the other hand, getting enough sleep while he was there was tough, “and I think it goes without saying I was hungry as hell,” Snow said.
Contact with loved ones at home was prohibited during taping, and he hasn’t said a word to anyone about the outcome of the show.
Like the past “survivors” who returned this season, Snow said he would gladly return to the show. “It was such an adventure, such a challenge,” he said. “If someone wants to be on the show they should just be themselves in their video, and tell stories — they are looking for people who can tell a story and love to talk.”
So far, watching himself on TV, he said he’s just been laughing at himself.
“I’m going to try and not worry about how I’m portrayed; I don’t have any control,” Snow said. “So I’m going to just enjoy and remember the ride.”